It was a small mention in the Forest City Courier on October 17, 1935:
Mr. Esper Brown, a graduate of the radio school in Chicago, has opened a shop in the store of Robert C. Hawkins, a dealer in Philco radios. Mr. Brown is fully prepared to adjust and repair your radio. He will give you prompt service and satisfaction. The name of the new firm is Brown and Hawkins.
The “radio school” was actually Coyle Electrical College, a one-year course of study. To help pay his way, Esper worked at night as a cook in the Cook County School of Nursing.
He was named for his mom, Espie, and his dad, Jasper, hence Esper. Daniel is his middle name, from his mother’s maiden name, McDaniel. He had two brothers, James and Richard.
When Esper returned to Cliffside from Chicago he married Agnes “Peg” Hawkins, daughter of Plato and Nancy Leota McDaniel Hawkins. He repaired radios in both “Tubby” Hawkin’s and Hal Miller’s places of business. In 1938 the Browns moved to Forest City where, for a short time, Esper ran a Texaco station he had bought. Soon he returned to electrical work for his brother-in-law, Jay Hicks, who owned a GE appliance store in Forest City. He began wiring houses for electricity in rural northwest Rutherford County, gaining experience that would give him a distinct advantage in the next stage of his career.
When the Duke Power Steam Station was under construction in 1939, Esper did electrical work for the construction company that was building the plant and drove from Forest City to the plant in Cliffside every day until the completion of the plant in early 1940.
Then Duke Power hired Esper as an electrician. He, Peg and daughter Nancy lived in the new Duke Power village. Except for a year he spent in the Navy in ‘44-’45 Esper worked at there until 1957.
While Esper was in the Navy Peg and Nancy had to move out of Duke Village and into Esper’s parents’ big house next to the school in Cliffside. Mrs. Brown, in charge of the cafeteria for many years at the school, was famous for her chicken pot pies. J. D. was a supervisor in the mill until he retired and they moved to their apple farm in the Race Path community.
While in Cliffside he was a very active member of Cliffside Methodist Church, singing in the choir under the direction of Virginia Christy. He was also very active in community activities such as the Lions Club and appeared in plays like the “Womanless Weddings” the town used to have. He was emcee for different concerts held in the community, and was a square dance “caller.”
During the war, when living in the Brown household, Peg gave birth to daughter Elise. When Esper returned they all moved back to Village. Another daughter Paula was born two years later, and then a son, Esper Daniel, Jr. was born. When Dan was just a baby, in 1957, the family moved to Belmont, N. C., except for Nancy, who remained in Cliffside, living with her father’s parents, to finish school with my friends.
In Belmont, Esper worked at Duke’s Allen Steam Station where he was a manager of the facility’s shop. He also spent some time at the Duke headquarters in Charlotte.
In 1969 Esper transferred to Duke’s Oconee nuclear plant in Seneca, S.C., where he became an expert in pump technology. Within two years he was back at headquarters in Charlotte. His job there involved traveling many times to Europe, primarily Germany, to visit the test sites of pumping equipment manufacturers, and ensure their products were suitable for Duke Power to buy. While in Charlotte he was asked to join the Mechanical Engineers Society, a notable honor because very few people without a college education are asked to join this group.
In 1978 Esper retired and he and Peg lived in Seneca, SC, until his death in 1993. He is buried in Seneca. Peg remarried in 2003 to retired Col. James D. Berry and now lives in Austin, Texas, near daughter Nancy Brown Wallace, who has three girls, a son, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
As for Esper and Peg’s other children, Elise Brown Burnett has a summer home in Brevard and in Jupiter, FL in the winter. She has three girls and seven grandchildren.
Paula Brown Abamonte lives in Oxford, Connecticut, about a two hour drive from New York City. Her husband Andrew works for the Regis and Kelly television show in New York City and comes home on weekends and holidays.
Dan lived and worked in Atlanta until his death in 1992.
Esper had two brothers, James—who also worked for Duke Power (and died in 2006), and Richard, who currently lives in Columbia, South Carolina. Richard was a B-24 pilot during World War II.
Story and photos provided by Nancy Brown Wallace